AUTHOR, Ian Rankin, remembers 1987 fondly – it was the year his well-loved creation, Detective Inspector John Rebus, first made his appearance in print.
At the same time, iconic Scottish band, Deacon Blue, also took their first steps to stardom with the launch of their debut album, Raintown.
Now the novelist will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of their landmark record and tell the story of how they became one of Scotland’s most popular groups in Deacon Blue: 30 Years of Raintown on BBC Radio Scotland on Monday, May 1 at 4pm.
The programme will also air on BBC Radio 2 on May 8.
Here, Richard Murdoch, programme producer, answers the questions…
Who commissioned the programme?
My editor, Sharon Mair, commissioned it for BBC Radio Scotland. The actual anniversary of Raintown’s release date is May 1, which happens to be Bank Holiday Monday this year, so that was great scheduling.
Soon after Sharon commissioned it, I had a conversation with Helen Thomas, Radio 2’s network editor. She was excited about the documentary as it also connected with Radio 2’s audience and asked for it to be re-versioned for them.
Explain the thinking behind the production’s ‘look and feel’
Ultimately, the programme explores why these songs have connected with so many people.
I was keen for the presenter, Ian Rankin, to stamp his personality on it.
As 2017 is a very busy year for him, my time with Ian was limited.
I arranged for him to interview the band members of Deacon Blue and encouraged him to share his personal association with the album.
The interviews were all relaxed and conversational. I recorded sound bites from all the other contributors and mixed them with Ian’s interviews and links.
I was keen to use as much music from the album as possible, to punctuate the insights and observations. There are moments that will make you laugh, cry, think and – ultimately – realise what an amazing body of work Raintown is.
Who are the key personnel? How were they recruited?
Ian was the obvious choice of presenter to me. I wanted a Scottish name who people would recognise.
Not only is Ian a fan of Deacon Blue and Raintown, he also celebrates his own 30th anniversary this year with the first Rebus novel.
1987 was a very creative year for Scotland.
My senior producer, Barbara Wallace, was invaluable when it came to the edit and helped me make some important decisions about the content and running order.
Kris McConnachie is a genius with sound and made everything sparkle in the mix.
Photographer, Alan Braidwood, captured a great image of Ian with the band which has helped to make the programme visual – online and on social media platforms.
What kit and software?
Some of the interviews were recorded at BBC Radio Scotland’s studios.
But for the location interviews – mainly in London – I used a HHB Flashmic.
It is very easy to use, gives fantastic quality, has large storage space and is very convenient for hand luggage.
I edited and mixed the programme in dira! StarTrack – the BBC’s playout system and main editing software.
What have been the main production challenges?
Time was the biggest challenge. Although I started work as soon as this was commissioned in January, there were still some contributors who were unavailable due to other commitments.
I was also working on existing projects including Radio Scotland’s Americana programme – Another Country, with Ricky Ross.
January to March is a busy time with Celtic Connections, C2C and the UK Americana Awards.
But I’m pleased with the people I recorded for the programme.
The other challenge is to disassociate yourself from it all during the edit. I recorded some great audio but needed to make some tough decisions on which clips really told the story or added to the programme.
Aled Jones is the sound bite king! But I knew I couldn’t include 15 the full-minute recording and had to decide what was the strongest 45 seconds.
What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?
It was a pleasure to meet the people who made this classic album and record their stories. It was also interesting to hear how the album connected with people around the world.
From Aled Jones in Bangor, North Wales, to American singer-songwriter, Matthew Ryan, who identified with the themes growing up in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
I also learnt so much about music-making in Scotland thanks to the insights of Davy Scott, from the Pealfishers.
He explained how Nile Rodgers is the link between Orange Juice and Deacon Blue. It was the best 30-minute music lesson I’ve ever had!
As well as Davy, there is so much love and respect for Raintown from other Scottish acts who were also releasing music in 1987.
Hue and Cry and Gary Clark from Danny Wilson are also in the programme.